Wherever we travel, the question often comes up: where to find pretty day hikes nearby? From time to time, we’d like escaping into nature, putting some hiking days into our agenda. Actually, it’s a question that comes up at home, too. Where to find a new trail for the next weekend to leave the city behind? Where to go for a weekend hiking getaway?
In 2020 we were wondering about it even more, and lots of other people, too. We wanted to get out, to find comfort and solitude in nature, and we searched for places near us, because it was not possible to travel far. We need these nature getaways just as much in the new year, and in this post we’d like to give you some general tips about how to find the best day hikes near your home.
Some tips might be straightforward (they’re all straightforward to us now, after years of practicing them), but we hope we help you discover new trails around your home – or wherever you stay in the world.
Search for protected areas
National parks, nature parks, nature reserves, wilderness areas, wildlife sanctuaries, natural monuments, conservation areas. They are declared as such, because they’re valuable, and it usually means they’re exciting to explore (though sometimes it takes more effort, preparation or patience to find their beauties, like in the case of caves or marshlands). In addition, they likely have a website where you can read about the outdoor activities in the park, maybe even find trail maps and recommended routes.
If you live in the USA, the website of the National Park Service is a great place to start your research about national parks – and also other protected lands managed by the NPS. In Australia, different states have different websites about the protected lands they manage – like this one for Queensland, this one for New South Wales, this one for Victoria, and so on… In Europe, it’s different for all countries. Some have a summary website for all the national parks (like Croatia or Hungary), and some don’t, but they have specific websites for most parks. Or you can find information about all the parks on the main tourism website of the country (like in the case of Slovakia or Slovenia).
Use an online trail map: mapy.cz
National park websites vary in details, and sometimes they don’t offer enough information. Besides, not all hiking trails are located in national parks. Our quickest and easiest way to find hiking trails near us is using mapy.cz – either the desktop version or the mobile app.
We’ve mostly used mapy.cz in Europe so far, but it offers details about hiking trails all around the world. We need to choose the walking route option in the planner, and then we type the name of the place where we want to start our hike, and check the routes that start there on the map. It’s also quite useful if we already know there’s a hiking trail to a natural attraction, we just don’t know where it starts, how long the trail is or how much the elevation change is.
Mapy.cz (or any other online hiking map of your preference) gives plenty of ideas, but there’s one disadvantage. While you know lots of useful details (like length, difficulty or altitude profile), it gives little help to decide whether it’s a hike you’d like in terms of scenery and sights. For that, we usually type the name of the hiking destination or the name of the sights on the trail in Google image search, or search for a similar hashtag on Instagram. You can also try using Google Street view in that area, but it’s often quite limited when you’d like to see, well, “streets” in the woods. 😀
Of course, we don’t only use mapy.cz for planning. This is the map we always have by ourselves when on the actual hiking trail. It might sound such a simple idea to use a hiking app, and who doesn’t use it these days, anyway? Still, we bump into people on almost each of our hikes who ask us about directions, because apparently they have no trail map – online or offline.
Search on AllTrails.com
It’s probably the most complete collection of hiking trails all around the world. You just type a city, park or trail name, and get lots of ideas. Trail descriptions usually offer information not only about the length and difficulty of each hike, but also tell you whether it’s dog friendly or kid friendly. You can see pictures and a map, too, and read other people’s opinions about the trail.
We use it for finding hiking ideas sometimes, but then we search for that trail in mapy.cz, and track our hike there. It’s a question of taste, I guess.
Get ideas from travel blogs
This is the time to shamelessly promote ourselves. Okay, but seriously, the whole point of writing a travel blog is to share lots of insider tips with other people who want to travel. I don’t mean the hundredth “10 Best Things To Do In Paris” blog post, I mean content that’s created based on a deep knowledge of an area. Like if you’d like to search for trails in Norway, find a blogger who lives in Norway and blogs about travelling and hiking in Norway (apparently, we have a favorite blogger in Norway). If you’d like to search for trails in Central Europe, find a blogger who lives there and knows the area thoroughly (yepp, that’s us).
Search on Pinterest
Pinterest is one of our favorite travel planning tools. It’s a visual search engine, but you can’t only search pins for a certain term, you can also see the boards where they are pinned. A board like “hiking in Colorado” or “Slovakia travel” can contain pins that link to exactly what you’re looking for: hiking guides. Based on the pin’s name and description, you can quickly decide whether you’re interested – or scroll further to see an indefinite number of other hiking ideas.
Join a local Facebook group
The most useful thing about Facebook is probably the groups where people with similar interests can have discussions. There’s a high chance that the place where you live already has a local hiking FB group where people share info and pictures about local hikes. Just try to narrow down the area as much as you can when using the group search with a term like “hiking in XY”.
Now tell us how do you find new hiking trails?
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